Winter has been upon us for about a month now in Northern Ontario, and shovelling snow is on everyone’s mind! Shovelling can be a great excuse to be active outside during the winter months, although most people regard it as a chore. Here are some tips and tricks to shovel safely this winter season to help avoid aches, pains, and injuries.
1. Warm up:
Start with a light walk, or gentle stretches and movements. This can be as easy as walking in place for 2 min, lifting knees to chest repeatedly in a marching fashion, light side bends or gentle movements though your low back and legs. Warming up will ensure your body is ready for activity, that your heart is ready to work harder, and the muscles are already receiving more oxygen for their increased usage.
2. Push do not lift:
Its easy to think shovelling requires you to heave snow from one area to another. This is not the best way as it requires repeated lifting and/or twisting which is a common way to injure the lower back. Pushing snow with short easy strokes and moving snow slowly across your driveway is a better alternative. Our bodies tend to be strong at pushing tasks versus lifting or heaving. By pushing the snow you are maximizing your body’s natural strengths while protecting your back and shoulders.
3. Bend your knees and hinge your hips:
When pushing snow it is important to maintain neutral spinal posture. HeadWay Clinic will cover ways to find this posture more accurately in future posts. For the purpose of this article the small of your back should have a very slight hollow in it, it may also be relatively flat. You want to avoid overarching your back (too large of a hollow), or slouching excessively (rounding it out). If you need to bend, it is important to bend from the hip. Furthermore, any lifting can be maximized in this position with the knees bent. Pushing and lifting tasks should come from the muscles of the legs and buttocks, not the low back.
4. Keep up with snowfall and take multiple trips:
Lighter loads of snow are definitely recommended when it comes to shovelling snow. Snow can vary in its weight based on the amount of moisture in it, and is difficult to predict until you start shovelling it. On days where heavy snowfall is expected it is best to clear it every couple of hours, instead of waiting for it all to accumulate.
5. Wear appropriate clothing:
It is important to stay warm when doing any activity in the winter months. Colder temperatures and inadequate clothing can lead to shivering or tightening of the bodies muscles. Trying to do activity on cold muscles can increase the risk for injury, this is part of the reason warming up is recommended before any activities. Therefore it is important to warm up and stay warm. In addition, layering your clothing is a useful mode of dressing as layers can be removed if you find yourself getting too warm. On colder days make sure all skin is covered to decrease the risk of frostbite.
Happy snow shovelling, stay safe and warm this winter season!